I’m doing a thing where I write 500 words on different prompts and people vote on which one I should keep going on. It’s not in the official rules, but mine are all written between 10pm-12am and I don’t remember what I wrote in its entirety the next day. So what I’m trying to say is don’t judge (even though the whole point of these is to be judged) on hasty plot and sentence structure. I pulled a 500 word short story out of my proverbial ass today. What did you do?
Day 1: Two
It’s hard living one life for two people.
It sounds like I’m talking about the challenges of married life – two people coming together to share one life with common goals and mutual support. That sounds nice.
It’s a different story when you’re trying to get two people sharing the same body to get along.
Some say it’s a split personality. Some call it schizophrenia. Seems like the modern PC nomenclature is borderline personality disorder? I don’t know. Doctors tell me I’m fine, but I know that’s not the case so I’m left to take internet quizzes to inch closer to self diagnosis. Whatever adjectives and nouns are prescribed, the situation is the same – two people sharing one body and they both have different ideas about what to do with it.
Is it really that different than being twins? Two eggs fertilized by two sperm at the same time yielding two people in two bodies sounds just as plausible as one egg being fertilized by two sperm and yielding two people in one body. Right? Or am I just trying trying to build a case for my own (our own) existence?
I mean, generally speaking it’s fine.
We both seem to like the same things – we mostly agree on music, art, home decor. We each get our own TV time. But we really do not have the same taste in clothes or in men. I would like a nice boy who I can nurture and spend quiet evenings flipping through the J Crew catalog. But She wants someone to challenge her and keep her working for his affection and wears some really slutty shit. But then some days I’m her so then I want someone to challenge me and she’s the one pulling on my sleeve and saying “oh but we want a nice guy.” Sometimes I can’t fucking stand her. To make matters worse, I don’t even know who said that about who.
So here we are. No really. Both of us are here and we’re kind of pissed at each other.
Despite the rivalry and ambiguous identities, no matter who I am right now and what I think about her, or me, or whoever I’m currently not who seems to be blocking my progress, I need to get out of this bar and get home. Both of us can agree on that, however the manner – who escorts me and how long they remain in my presence is very much a topic for hot debate. Wouldn’t she just love to get a free ride home and then a free ride in bed. Or is that me? Can I please just talk to the one who’s responsible enough to hire a Lyft to drop her (me?) off at the corner and let us get a full night sleep for once?
Although she must argue that spending some quality time in bed with a select winner would vastly improve the quality of sleep and so is a sensible life hack for a more productive morning.
Good lord where does she get this stuff. I’m writing a note to herself to look for a new doctor in the morning. But I also think I might ask her if this is an evolutionary advantage that we don’t know the benefits of yet. She finds such smart ways to be destructive and I think I’m going to wait and see what she has to say next before I have her forcibly removed.
Did we ever order that Lyft?
Day 2: Standing
“Looks like the line is moving,” Justin said unconvincingly.
Ari wasn’t so easily fooled, though, and said, “If I knew we’d be standing here all day I would have brought something to do. And more comfortable shoes.” She sized Justin up in an instant and went in for the jab, “And I would have eaten before we came.”
Justin, trying to save face, responded, “Last time I was here it really moved along. I was surprised. You’ll see. I’m telling you, you’re gonna love it.” He’d never spent one-on-one time with Ari, and standing in a line spilling out the door and around the corner on a dangerously-close-to-chilly day while trying to convince his niece that it would be “totally worth it” for some exotic meat hot dogs was a hell of a way to start bonding.
Justin’s buddies who come to visit him in Chicago love standing in line, rain or shine, inching their way into the tiny specialty hot dog stand. See it’s not just about the food. It’s the experience. However Justin forgot that 16 year old girls and 32 year old men have different opinions on what a cool experience is. On the one hand, Justin realized the folly in his uncle-niece activity planning. But on the other hand he didn’t want to admit defeat and was optimistic that he could be opening up a whole world of culinary adventure for her.
“So, what do they taste like?” Ari asked.
Justin, surprised by even such a low level of interest, caught himself overselling but he couldn’t stop himself. “O man. Which one? They’re all amazing. I mean, when I had the elk one it was kind of dry, but the rattlesnake-“
“I’m sorry did you say rattlesnake?” Ari interrupted.
“Yeah! Bet you never thought your uncle was the type of guy to eat a rattlesnake, huh?” He winced at what he said before Ari could even roll her eyes. Justin marveled that with just a simple shifting of her weight from one foot to the other, Ari was able to silently, but unmistakably, communicate her displeasure. Just when he was about to suggest they go somewhere else, the line moved up so they were almost in front of the door.
“Ok now we’re getting somewhere. If you stand right here you can see the menu through the window.” He positioned Ari in front of him and pointed to a chalk board hanging next to the counter. It was barely visible through the glass, but he thought the list of things one would normally not think to put in a hot dog would intrigue her and maybe she’d even be excited to try something.
Ari peered through the window just long enough to scan the list of rabbit, boar, rattlesnake and elk-based items and said in an impressive mix of playful an accusational tones, “What would you have done if I was a vegetarian?”
Justin’s stomach dropped. “Shit,” he thought. As the next sentence fell out of his mouth he was horrified by the implications and was sure Ari would be driven away, never to speak to him again, “Maybe they could get you a plate of whatever they fed the rabbits.”
Ari looked at him in disbelief for what felt to Justin like exactly forever. “You’re so weird,” she said, unable to hold back a faint smile.
Day 3: Back to School
She hated to admit it, but Erin was so fucking glad to be going back to school in the morning.
It’s not that summers at home were bad. She wasn’t in any mortal danger. No one was beating her or abusing her, so she should be thankful because it could always be worse, right?
But it could also be better.
She was aware that she wasn’t the same person she was when she left her parents’ home in a small midwestern town to go to college in a slightly larger midwestern town. She had more confidence in certain areas now. And less confidence in others. She could speak up for herself now, whereas before a parent spoke for her. She could wear whatever she wanted without anyone commenting that it made her look too curvy or it gave her no shape at all (Seriously. Back home it was always one or the other and she could never win). Professors and classmates praised her strengths instead of hunting for weaknesses. She couldn’t help but wonder, “If it’s every kid’s dream to stay home from school, what does it say about me that I can’t wait to leave home and get back to school?”
What really made her long for her college was the fact that no matter what, her parents acted as though she couldn’t possibly know what she was talking about on any given topic. Nevermind that neither one of them had even been in college for more than a semester. They’d never travelled abroad. They haven’t even gotten to a quarter of the states in this country! But in their minds Erin was still a silly little girl who thought ninja turtles were real, so she couldn’t possibly speak on politics or corporate manipulation of food supply. They didn’t know much about those topics, but they were certain that she must know less. Or what she knew was wrong or worse – it must be Liberal Agenda.
She had to wonder why they even let her go to a liberal arts college if they were so allergic to the word, “liberal.” Although, she did enroll before they started watching Fox News on a regular basis, so maybe they didn’t realize how much free thinking might go on there.
Erin knew it wasn’t her parents’ fault that they had such tiny worldviews. If all they ever see is small-town whitefolk, then it’s natural to assume that the entire world is nothing but small-town whitefolk and anything different is weird. Once Erin pointed out to them that to people in other countries, they are the weird ones and that did not go well.
Even though they were nice to her, it hurt her that they could be so reactionary and there was nothing she could do about it. They met change with fear and disbelief, so she had to go elsewhere to seek out the change. A Liberal Arts college was just what she needed and she needed to get there now.
Day 4: Everything
“The problem is that you’re thinking with words. Stop thinking in words.”
Alex understood and tried to do as instructed, but then he accidentally thought about it and was confused.
“Why can’t I use words?” he asked, cautiously frustrated.
“Spirit does not speak English. It does not speak Russian. It does not speak Spanish. Or Latin even. Do you think Spirit has time to learn your language? Language is a human invention and Spirit is far beyond anything that humans could even think of creating.”
Alex nodded in agreement, but not entirely in understanding. “So should I think in pictures?” he asked.
Etta nodded slightly. She was trying to think of yet more ways to explain to him how to stop thinking and just let everything come to him. Explaining it was much more difficult to her than actually doing it. She wasn’t giving up on him yet though.
“If you think in words, you’re limited to what you can think about. You can only speak one sentence at a time. But if you learn how to open your aperture and let all the information come in at once, you don’t even need words.” She wasn’t sure if Alex had a background in photography and so the word “aperture” would be lost on him, but he didn’t stop her for an explanation so she continued.
“If you widen your lens – picture it at the top of your head – it lets so much more information in. Eventually you can get a sense of everything that there is. But it takes practice. You need to practice not thinking about everything all the time.”
Alex couldn’t help himself and said, “But if I think, therefore I am.” He smiled briefly, then realized Etta wasn’t the least bit amused and he felt foolish.
“Thinking is like talking,” Etta explained more forcefully now. “You can’t listen if you’re talking. What can you possibly learn if you’re talking all the time? The only way you can learn is if you shut up and let someone else do the talking every once in a while.” She looked at him with deadly seriousness. “Do you agree?” she asked.
Alex could only nod dumbly as her eyes locked his and he felt as if she was taking him somewhere. Instead of grabbing him by the arm, she dragged him by the eyes into a world where anything is possible, everything is kind of scary, but also it all makes total sense. He saw himself from up in the corner of the room. He had a distant thought of “how can I be seeing me seeing her right now?” but the thought was so far away that he barely noticed it. Instead he looked up from his corner in the room and it was like he’d been taken backstage to see how all the pulleys and set props worked.
“Oh, that’s how they do it.” He thought. But it was more of a feeling than a thought. And then he thought about the fact that it was not exactly a thought and he snapped back into position sitting in front of Etta with her staring at him and him feeling very silly.